24 Learning

24 Learning

Saturday, August 01, 2015

John Green - Learning Cartography




This is a talk that I think is really worth watching. The title could be a bit misleading. John Green's talk is much broader than just being about learning online.

As our school moves rapidly to a much more collaborative teaching model we need to be engaged in discussion about how we create a community of learners. As a staff we need to be a community of learner drilling down into how to use our new spaces wisely. We also need to create a community of learners with our children.


We are in exciting times!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Handwriting - Back to the future?


Image result for handwriting debate 



I am participating in in some online PD with the CPPA this term. This post is a response to the blogging challenge and a response to Jo's blog post.

The debate about handwriting vs typing is a debate about skills that are of enduring importance vs skills that have only temporary importance. I remember at high school learning to touch type (long forgotten skill now sadly). Typing is I believe a skill that is fast becoming less important than we might have thought in the past.

A quick browse of online writing on this issue  (1, 2, 3) suggests the reasons put forward arguing for keeping handwriting instruction in the curriculum are either about nostalgia or about brain development.


Looking at Jo's post it seems the children are mostly concerned about the speed of their typing. I really wonder whether we are in a very short interim period where we can see that typing is useful and should be taught and the time (fast approaching I believe) where we will just be able to talk to our devices and they will translate spoken word to text for us. I think typing will quickly become a skill that is not required. Soooo.... If I am right the debate will not continue to focus on how quickly children can type but will refocus on whether there is something useful for brain development that the physical action of writing promotes. If that is true, is there some other action we can take that will promote the same brain development (if indeed that is important) or do we actually not need that part of our brains to be active any more?

A parallel argument could be held for something like memory. It used to be quite important for us to develop our memory capacity. Intelligence and academic success was mostly about remembering. Who remembers learning the names of capital cities, periodic table, prime ministers, etc? Success at high school and university was significantly about how much swotting we did before those big exams. Now we have much less need to remember stuff cause google has a much better memory and recall ability than the human brain ever will. Academic success is also being examined in more diverse ways that are about application of skill rather than regurgitation of remembered facts.

Linking these ideas are some challenges for us as educators.

Will handwriting and typing both be equally redundant soon?
Will memorisation of facts become redundant?
What else that we have traditionally deemed important will become less important?
What do we hold on to in the curriculum as essential skills?

Some of this is crystal ball gazing and some of it is current reality. One place to look I believe would be to ask employers what the skills are they are looking for in their workforce.

This is what Forbes magazine has to say on the topic...

1. Ability to work in a team structure
2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
5. Ability to obtain and process information
6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
7. Technical knowledge related to the job
8. Proficiency with computer software programs
9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
10. Ability to sell and influence others

How well are we doing on preparing our children for this list? Does handwriting (or indeed typing) fit in here importantly?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

James Anderson - Growth Mindsets

We worked on Thursday with James Anderson.

Image result for james Anderson growth Mindset What a great day unpacking the ideas around Growth Mindsets.

He finished up by talking about Failure. "I failed vs I am a failure." Fail is an event not a person.

Failure as a starting point rather than as a finishing point.

Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.


James is developing a rubric to try and describe failing well. This is something about persistence and attitude to learning.

We have been left with a challenge to think about what we want to change, when we will change this by, who we will seek support from and how we will know that we have changed.

The messages I have taken from the session seem to fall under two main strands. There are the issues surrounding my own mindset and the times I have a fixed or growth mindset and what contributes to that. The other strand is the language I use that either promotes or inhibits a growth mindset in the children I work with (and with my own children).

Now I need to go back to the





book to mull this over some more.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Skipped to chapter 7

The sports coaching chapter didn't hold my attention. And hey! What bloke wants to talk about relationships? I mean seriously. I had to skip chapter 6. So chapter 7 it is.

To be honest the first 14 pages of this chapter didn't really do much for me on first reading. The message seemed to be about caring for children, giving them messages of valuing learning rather than judgement of performance and "not measuring up".

On page 201 under the heading "Growth-Minded Teachers: Who Are These People?"  was a quote from Seymour Sarason a professor of Carol Dweck. He said, "There's an assumption that schools are for students' learning. Well, why aren't they just as much for teachers' learning?" Carol's reflection was that she thinks about what she finds fascinating  and what she would love to learn more about and that makes her a fresh and eager teacher, even after many years.

I read this and immediately thought about my first year teaching a Year 7 class at South New Brighton School. I had been learning about collaborative learning, habits of mind, integrating ICT into learning, how to engage learners through passion projects, multiple intelligences, and how to integrate curriculum for deeper learning. I was really fortunate to be working with a Principal (Margaret Trotter) who believed in letting people try things out. She allowed me to have heaps of technology in my room (a collection of mac and PC's, cameras, video cameras etc). We experimented with the classroom layout, the furniture and the timetable. We integrated the curriculum and engaged in some lengthy projects. One fond memory is of a three week project. The class self selected groups to work with. Each group had a week (no other lessons in the timetable except sport) to complete their projects. One group made a class magazine, another group made a clayanimation movie and I can't remember now what the third group did. The level of engagement was just spectacular to watch. I wish I had the animation to show you but sadly the following week our classroom was broken into and the computer gear (including the back up drive with the movie on it) was stolen. We were gutted at first. We stayed out of our classroom and went to the library while we waited for the police to come and fingerprint the crime scene. When they didn't show up for two days and then we got the message that they weren't coming we decided to do our own crime scene investigation. We traced the drops of blood from the broken window. Speculated on what they had used to break open the computer cabinet. Inspected the bloody fingerprint left on a shelf. Not quite the ending I had imagined to our movie making venture but great learning in itself.

Anyway... That diversion down memory lane was my mental link to "following your interests." I had been learning about clayanimation, showed the kids what I had learnt and then let them get on with it.

Carol Dweck describes a violin teacher, Dorothy DeLay, and gives examples of her growth mindset influence on her pupils. She says, "Dorothy DeLay was an extraordinary teacher because she was not interested in teaching. She was interested in learning (p.202)."

Right ho! Back to chapter 6...




Saturday, June 06, 2015

Teaching Philosophy

Well I found this a bit tricky actually. I haven't really had to articulate my philosophy of teaching for a long time. In the spirit of my last post I think short is better so here it is...



The aim of teaching and learning is wisdom.
Wisdom is mostly gained through experience... therefore...teaching should mostly be about creating experiences with the learner. The more memorable the experience the better the learning.



Learning by doing is better than learning by listening. (Project based learning beats sage on the stage)
I learn more by trying to teach someone else.
Talking about my learning helps me modify my understanding.
Learning should be fun. (Not easy but fun. If I am interested in it and can see that it is relevant to me and it is fun, then I will stick at new learning much longer.)
Learning together is better than learning alone. (mostly)
If I understand myself as a learner I can become a better learner.
Positive relationships are really important.
I need to know the learners I am working with.  (ZPD, Learning Muscles, Habits of Mind, Passions, Scaffolding, Next Steps, What do they think is fun?)
Almost anyone can learn almost anything.

Of course I do realise that the next question is, "So how does this look in your teaching practice?"

Mmmmm. Honestly? Sometimes really aligned with this. At other times not so much. Good to be reminded about what I believe in though.

So help me out here. What have I left out? I am sure there are really deep important things about the teaching and learning complexity that I have missed.

Share your ideas...



Rising above the ordinary

So... I sat down to write a post of my teaching philosophy for an upcoming staff meeting. We are developing our school vision and the phrase that has come to the top so far is "Rising above the ordinary". A google search on that brought up this great poem from SYL65

We must bear the treasure of sacred trust

And believe we have found something profound

Unlike the experiences of past ghosts

We have stepped out of the ordinary

To build with soft hands and open hearts

The world can be crazy sometimes

I believe though, we are strong enough

To not get caught up and tossed about

Love and hope will be our anchor

Together, we can make it through anything



Phew! This speaks volumes.

So then I got distracted by this trending video on youtube 

   

It is only 1 minute 18 seconds long. Just do it.

Which reminded about a favourite of mine. Stop It




Which has pleasantly filled in a 20 minute distraction from the task at hand which was to write my teaching philosophy in one paragraph.

Now that I have got that far I think I will come back to it.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mindset Chapter 3 Reflection

Chapter 3 "The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment.

In this chapter Carol Dweck talks (amongst other things) about the low effort syndrome. Students whos primary goal at school is to exert as little effort as possible. I interacted last week with a student in exactly this mindest. He had a choice of activities and had selected the one which he believed required the least effort. It held no interest to him at all and he really had exerted little effort in attempting to meet the criteria for the assignment. I asked him why he bothered at all and his answer was that he just wanted to get that task ticked of his requirements. If he was lucky one of the teachers who was checking would let him away with it. (He wasn't lucky cause of me).

Carol asks the question, "Is everyone capable of great things with the right mindset?" She gives several examples that back up her answer... With the right mindset and the right teaching people are capable of a lot more than we think. 

This is a really important message for teachers.... in fact so important I am going to paste it again... bigger...

With the right mindset and the right teaching people are capable of a lot more than we think. 

I really do wonder how often I have accepted much less of myself than I am capable of and as a teacher how often have I accepted much less of the learners in my care than they are capable of. Much more often than I care to admit.


Think of times when other people outdid you and you just assumed they were smarter or more talented. Now consider the idea that they just used better strategies, taught themselves more, practiced harder and worked their way through obstacles. You can do that too, if you want to.



Sunday, May 24, 2015


In chapter two Carol Dweck talks about the effort leading to success that a growth mindset encourages. She also highlights the big risks of both high and low effort.

For people with a fixed mindset the fear of trying and failing can be paralyzing. If you go to do something but you don't really try hard, you were not really prepared, if you didn't work as hard as you could have and you don't win... you have an excuse. Nothing is harder than saying, "I gave it my all and it wasn't good enough". For people with a fixed mindset this fear of failure can prevent them trying in the first place.


 
I can still remember a moment I experienced early in my teacher training.
As part of a communication course the lecturers had a selection of books on display for us to browse during the breaks. I picked up Susan Jeffers book "Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway". Class started at that moment and I didn't get time to read any more than the cover but I still remember the impact it had on me. At various times since that feeling has come back to me as I have faced moments where I was afraid to give something a try. By acknowledging to myself that I am afraid and then reminding myself that I am not going to let fear stop me from trying I have been able to experience some great challenges that I know I would not have attempted otherwise.

Susan Jeffers outlines Five Truths about Fear including...

The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow!
Every time you take a step into the unknown, you experience fear. There is no point in saying, "When I am no longer afraid, then I will do it." You'll be waiting for a long time. The fear is part of the package.


Carol also talks about the big risk of low effort...

In the growth mindset, it's almost inconceivable to want something badly, to think you have a chance to achieve it, and then do nothing about it. When it happens the "I could have been" is heartbreaking not comforting.

(Mindset, Carol Dweck. p.44)

Reading this reminded me of a quote from Charles Dickens that I wrote out on a scroll and had stuck on the wall above my desk for a number of years.

“Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning himself to let it eat him away.”

(Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
 
I find those words a challenge to my apathy at times. 
 
I was also interested in Carol's discussion of the idea that we can have a fixed mindset about certain aspects of our lives while still maintaining a growth mindset about other aspects of who we are. 

What things in your life do you have a fixed mindset about?
 

(Toilet paper should always roll out from the wall, never down the wall)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

NZ Flag - Great activity to get children thinking about design

Campbell Live this evening has had a story focusing on the NZ flag debate. 88% of respondents to their survey do not want a change to the flag. This is up from 84% answering the same question in February. I am sure the margin of error on this sort of survey will be big but those numbers are not insignificant.



I'm not sure where I sit on this issue. Part of me agrees with Ian Mune...


Ian Mune, Director, Writer, Actor

"Why a flag? To run up the mast, to drape over a coffin, to unfurl in the breeze, to gather around, to say "This is us." So who are we? According to our current flag, a bunch of poms in the South Pacific. We stand by Australia like two kids going to school, our flags almost identical, and both looking backwards, still acknowledging our parents. We're grown-ups now. Let's buy our own clothes. And if we want the stars, we better get in quick or the Aussies will pinch it." 


http://www.nzflag.com/

... and part of me agrees with the 88% support shown by John Campbell's survey respondents. I get both sides of this debate. The desire for change based around identity and the desire to hold on to and cherish the memories of historical moments celebrated under our current flag. The issue is way deeper than a  weighing up of the pros and cons because there is so much emotion involved. I wonder if the next debate will be about changing the national anthem?

I would love to hear your opinion. Do you favour a change? Why? Why not? What do your children think?

I was thinking about this being a genuine learning opportunity for our children to be involved in.
So... if anyone is interested here are a few resources that might be useful as inspiration.

The TED talk below is a really interesting summary about what makes for a good flag design and some of the common mistakes designers make. The talk is mostly about city flags but it has some good flag design rules that apply to country, city or actually any flag design. It is also just a really different presentation style and worth watching for that reason.




NZFlag.com has a whole lot of great resources for teachers. This is a must visit site if you want to run a "design a flag" activity with your class.

http://www.nzflag.com/



This next one is the government site asking for feedback. This is where children genuinely can have a say.

What do you stand for?



The NZ History page has some great background on the flag debate.

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/calls-new-flag







The ones below are various other sites that have some useful resources to support your discussions.

Quirky alternatives

Kiwiblog

Google Image Search NZ Flag

If you do decide to do this as an activity send me links to any cool designs your classes come up with and I will post the link for others to share.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mindset - Carol Dweck

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to hear Carol Dweck and  Guy Claxton speaking in Christchurch.

I have started reading Carol's book and thought I would blog my reflections and questions from what I am reading.

On page 8 and 9 Carol outlines two different responses to some bad things happening in the day of a young adult... a bad test grade, a parking ticket and a brush off from a friend. She talks about the responses people have to these sort of experiences not as pessimistic vs optimistic but as fixed vs growth mindset responses. 
As I was reading this I looked up at the card pinned on the wall at home..

Carol goes on to say that a growth mindset isn't just about risk taking and effort but that an understanding of fixed and growth mindsets will help us identify thoughts, actions and beliefs that lead us to success. 

Towards the end of chapter one Carol says "exceptional people seem to have a special talent for converting life's setbacks into future successes".  I feel really privileged to be part of a school where I see so many people with this attitude. We have faced a few setbacks in Christchurch in the last few years but now really is the time to start building our own future.

Back to Blogging

Clearly I am not a dedicated blogger. The last post was August 2011. Phew quite a lot has happened in the intervening years. For those of you not in the loop this is the 30 second run down on why I stopped blogging...

Big earthquake
Bit of a clean up required - Life got quite busy.
Another earthquake - more cleanup
Became Acting Principal
School merger proposal - fought that for a bit
School merge
Rāwhiti School

The long version would take a novel which I'm not ready to write just at the moment.

But.... Here we are 2015... The school merger has happened. Rāwhiti School is underway and we are looking positively to a year of challenge. There are so many things in front of us as a staff that it is sometimes hard to decide the priorities. I have been so impressed with how brilliantly our staff have all got on with the job of making Rāwhiti School great even amongst all the challenges we face. There is such an atmosphere of good will and positive problem solving it is brilliant. As I move around the two bases I am constantly impressed with the brilliant relationships that staff have with the children and with each other. I can see already that Rāwhiti School is going to be great.

So... This leads me to why I have decided to start blogging again after all this time.

1. It is a quiet Sunday morning and I was mucking around online and floated to my blog.
2. We are encouraging staff to learn new things and to get connected online and blogs are one way to do that. (Better lead by example I think)
3. My blog has always been a space for me to reflect on stuff I have been thinking about. I thought I would start it up again to post my reflection on some of the learning I am doing this year.

So there it is. Mostly this is for me. I welcome comments though cause I learn so much more from conversation with others than just from my own reading and reflecting.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

EasiYo cooking video competition

A group of our Year 7 and 8 students entered the EasiYo Cooking Video competition. We would love your vote. The competition winner will be judged by online votes so the more the merrier.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Long time no post



I feel a little guilty about not having posted anything for such a long time and now this post is asking for your help. Freeville School is in the final 20 to win a $50,000 or $10,000 prize from The Palms shopping centre. This is one way you could help us for only a few mouse clicks. If you feel able to support Freeville School we would really appreciate it. All you have to do is follow this link and place your vote for Freeville.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Freeville Room 5



What a fantastic effort from Room 5 at Freeville School. These children should be very proud to be finalists in the tvnz6netguide awards

Monday, August 23, 2010

Freedom Writers

As you can see I am trolling around the net for writing ideas. Someone loaned me a copy of Freedom Writers the other day. Very inspirational story. Great to think that a teacher could be so inspiring and the sense of hope that Erin Gruell allowed to grow in her class was impressive. The positive I took away from watching the video was the sense of purpose that she was able to inspire. I may just be getting old but I also found it a little bit disturbing that it was conveyed as a noble thing that she worked three jobs to pay for resources, and that her marriage collapsed because she spent all her time working. I haven't read the book and I know nothing more of the truth of her story than from watching the movie but...... ???? It just raised a few questions for me.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Writing Inspiration

I've been browsing the net for resources to inspire our staff to be teaching writing in creative ways.

Here are a few links I thought worth sharing around.

Imagination Prompt Generator
The page is full of adverts but the ideas from the prompt generator are actually quite cool.

Writing Prompt Generator
A great little generator. Well worth a look.

31 ways to find inspiration for your writing
The main site this link is from is aimed at adult writers but the link is to quite a good list.

Ambleside Primary Crazy Story Machine

Poetry4kids

Scholastic Inspire Young Writers

2 Writing Teachers blog

I'm sure there are a million more great sites. Leave a comment with your best picks (although do understand that I will vet them and not publish any I consider rubbish or too full of advertising)

Monday, June 28, 2010

I found a poem written years ago

O
is
the
only
round
letter
without
annoying
appendage
fastenings
attachments
protuberance
contamination
reorganisation
sticky out bits



Thought I might just share this little poem I wrote a very long time ago. (In case you need a prompt count the letters in each line.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My apologies for being ethno centric

Over the last few months I have been getting a number of comments on this blog in Chinese. I have just been rejecting these outright because I had no idea what they said. This morning it occurred to me to drop the latest into a translator.

感謝您寫下您的生活,也是把珍寶來和諸君分享的心意

Thanks you to write down your life, also is comes the treasure the regard which and the gentlemen shares

So...... I thank you too for taking the time to thank me. I don't hold myself in much regard so it is disconcerting to think that someone in China thinks my sharing is a treasure. (At least that is what I'm taking from the translation.) If I have completely misunderstood the message feel free to enlighten me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

National Standards misleading comments

I'm not a political animal and I really do like my job thank you John but I just have to vent my frustration at the reporting of the national standards issue in the press. Today's Christchurch Press has a photo of John Key and Anne Tolley opening a new school under the banner Key prefers to 'work with' rebel schools

The first sentence says

Schools rebelling against the new national standards will have to explain to parents why they are prepared to allow children to leave school without adequate literacy and numeracy skills.


Now really! (if this is actually what you said John) This is just such political emotive nonsense. Schools already have many systems in place for identifying and communicating student achievement. The emotive suggestions that we need national standards to help us identify the underachievement are just patently wrong. Key's statement also suggests that schools are doing nothing about inadequate literacy and numeracy. Again... wrong wrong wrong. Schools work tirelessly and teachers care passionately about raising achievement. There is also an implied suggestion that we need the standards to identify schools that are failing. No. We have a school review process for that through the education review office. But it has just occurred to me that maybe with the cuts to the education budget this might be the new strategy. Scrap the Education Review Office (ERO) and just let schools be judged through published league tables of academic achievement. Lots of money will be saved. Great idea.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Learning Team 4 Blog

http://freevilleflyer.blogspot.com/

After ignoring this for a long time I am making an attempt to get our team blog up and running again. I've passed the management over to a couple of really capable team members so hopefully they will get some good things up there. The first story from Tenira is great.

Enjoy.